Photo by Ash Daniel
Frisée salad with beets, candied kumquats, almonds, tofu and bee pollen
In the darkest days of winter, good food can go a long way toward warming our spirits. Carbs and cheese often do the trick, but local chefs have another trick up their sleeves: citrus. From blood oranges and satsuma to kumquats and Key limes, citrus can brighten even the heaviest of winter dishes.
“Good citrus is like a party in your mouth,” says Dylan Fultineer, executive chef at Rappahannock. “Citrus is something that seems like it would be good on a hot summer day, but it’s this super-refreshing, vibrant ingredient you get in the middle of a dismal growing season where it’s mostly root vegetables and hearty greens. Citrus can add depth to a dish, provide acidity in a refreshing way, or brighten up a very subtle and light dish.”
After living in Southern California for six years, Fultineer maintains a few West Coast contacts to source his favorite rare fruits, like oro blancos — a pomelo/grapefruit hybrid — and mandequats. One of his favorite winter recipes is a pan-seared red drum with melted leeks, baby turnips and kumquat agrodolce. “A version of that will find its way to the menu soon,” he promises.
Chef Patrick Harris of Boka Tako takes a chemist’s approach to citrus, analyzing each fruit’s acidic qualities to determine how it fits in a dish. “Oranges and grapefruits and tangerines have acid, but it’s in the punctuating notes, more of a flavor with the acids,” he explains. “They’re in the same realm as vinegars that have acids but won’t make your face scrunch up into a pucker note.”
Although they can be hard to come by, he loves using kumquats, a hardy, olive-size fruit that’s grown as far north as South Carolina. “They need to be cooked to break down, and you’ll typically want to add some high level of sweet along with them,” he says. “I always try to complement with a high sugar content and punctuate with salt, because salt accentuates acid.”
For Ipanema chef Will Wienckowski, citrus is a winter staple. Though the restaurant’s vegan menu is ever-evolving, you might find offerings like a beet salad with candied kumquats or bucatini with tomato and blood orange sauce.
His favorite citrus fruits range from the unusual to the utterly ordinary. “Blood oranges are cool because they look dramatic and it’s an ingredient that catches people’s attention,” he says.
“Lemons aren’t very exotic, but we use them almost every day, so I want to give them their due.”